This year this first week of January has a gentle grip on my garden. Last night Mother Nature delivered the perfect amount of snow. Barely an inch covers the ground. Trees, shrubs and perennials are outlined in clear white and the muted browns and grays are now in sharp contrast. The ground has a slightly soft yield to the step--different from the hard, cold, solid ground of just two days ago. January in my garden is a chameleon. Some days, it has an icy tongue and other days it softly surrounds the trees, branches and ground. January is an excellent time for garden assessment. A light snow shows texture in the garden. The coarseness of the sumac contrasts with the delicate tracery of the branching of the dogwoods. Rhododendrons are frosted with snow. Perennial epimediums hold their foliage through the winter and they catch the snow with their small but broad leaves held on wiry stems creating a 'dance of the sugar fairy' effect albeit in miniature. Snowfall shows that the back garden clearly would benefit from an evergreen backbone. The Virginia red cedars aka junipers have declined over the years from deer browse and the encroaching shade from surrounding woodland trees. This leaves an undefined ending to the back garden. Deer are always a problem here. Don't fight the site is one of the basic rules of landscape gardening and that includes the wildlife which share this habitat. I will plant some upright boxwood along with some winterberry, red and yellow twig dogwood and perhaps some hydrangeas...the deer do love hydrangeas so a bit of fishing line will be employed to deter them. I am thinking of planting several Hydrangea arborescens 'Incrediball'. I truly wish I could find the straight species, Hydrangea arborescens, which grew beautifully in my grandfather's garden. They have smaller flower heads on them but don't flop over in a heavy rain. I never see these for sale at my local garden centers so will settle for this new cultivar which is purported to hold its large, white flower clusters high on strong stems.
January is a time of dreams and rest for this gardener. No garden is as beautiful as that which the mind envisions during the gray, cold and often icy days of January in New England. This month I will dream and plan. February will bring lengthening days and many seed catalogs but for now, there are dreams of a new border and the blooms of the coming season.